What are the Different Types of Driving Horse Sports?

When you think of horse driving you think of a horse or pony pulling a cart or a wagon.  However this is a very general notion about the sport of driving.  There are several different sports within the world of horse driving.  In this article each sport/style will be described.  If you are looking to join the world of driving there is a style for you!


Harness Racing: Harness Racing in North America is performed by Standardbreds.  In other countries other breeds, such as the Orlov trotter, are used.  The harness race horse runs the race in either the trot or the pace.  The trot is when the legs of the horse work together on the diagonal.  The pace is when the legs of the horse work together on the lateral (same side).  This is performed with a single horse, not a team.  The horse pulls a sulky, which is an extremely light two-wheeled cart.  The race typically covers a distance of one mile.  The horses and carts line up behind a motorized start gate or at a line.  When starting at the line this is called a standing start.  When lined up behind the motorized start gate the start is at the gait of the race, whether trot or pace.  An exciting sport of speed for the harness/ driving enthusiast.


Team Draft Horses working the FieldWorking Harness:  This is when a single or team of horses, drafts, mules, or donkeys are used in harness for the purpose of work.  This includes various farm equipment, but the most common equipment used is the plow.  Used to drag fields to prepare for planting the harness driven plow has been used for a very long time.  Today many hobby farms keep the tradition alive and still plow their fields with horse drawn plows.  So if you are looking to work around the farm, the style of work harness is for you.


Combined Driving:  This is an internationally recognized competition for single or team horse driving.  This sport is similar to the sport of eventing, only in harness.  The competition consists of three phases: dressage, marathon, and cones.  This is a sport that challenges the horse and driver’s stamina, athleticism, bravery, harmony, and trust.  So if you are looking for a challenging endeavor in the sport of driving you have found it in combined driving. For additional information about combined refer to the article, “What is the Equestrian Sport of Combined Driving?”

Draft Horse Show

Draft Horse Showing:  This type of competition series is for horse strictly of draft breeding.  This show typically features driving over riding.  This type of show is similar to the fine harness shows for lighter breeds.  Drivers must follow a pattern for the class.  There are many different divisions within draft horse showing, which include ladies cart, men’s cart, team driving, tandem driving, unicorn driving, four horse team driving, six horse team driving, and eight horse team driving.  Horse and driver teams must be show ready.   Show harnesses, show wagon, or cart are a must.  The drivers and horses are polished for the show arena.  Horses are judged on condition, conformation, hoof size, cleanliness, movement, action, manners, and if it’s a team of horses how well they work together.  The driver’s ability to drive the vehicle is also judged.  So if you are looking for the driving sport for your draft horse breed, you have found it in draft horse showing.


Draft Horse PullDraft Horse Pulling:   This is a draft horse competition where typically a team of two horses pulls as much weight as they can for as far as they can.  There are different weight classes, much like wresting, to avoid animal injury.  The most common breed is the Belgian horse.  So if you are looking for an exciting way to showcase your draft horse’s strength you have found it in the sport of draft horse pulling.


Carriage Driving:  The style of carriage driving is when the vehicle being driven is slightly larger than the average cart.  The carriage consists of two large wheels or four wheels.  The carriage is often a restored antique or a replica of an antique.  This style of driving can be done with a single horse, tandem, or a team of four.  In competition the appearance of the carriage and suitability of horses is judged.  So if you are looking to drive a piece of time, look no further than the sport of carriage driving.


Pleasure Driving:  The style of pleasure driving is when the vehicle used is a lightweight two-wheeled show cart.  Horses are to perform at the walk, and two speeds of the trot: working trot and extended trot.  The horse and driver teams are judged with an emphasis on manners, such as with western pleasure riding.  The horse and driver team should work together in harmony.  So if you are looking to enjoy the world of driving, consider pleasure driving.


Fine Harness (Formal Driving): This style of driving features horses with high action.  The harness is light and is typically the breast collar type without the horse collar.  The vehicle used is a light four-wheeled cart.  Horses are asked to perform at the walk and two types of trot: the slow trot and a park trot.  The park trot is the faster trot with flashy high action.  The most common breeds seen in fine harness include the Saddlebred, Morgan, Arabian, Dutch Harness Horse, and Hackney.  So if you want to show off your high stepping driving horse, consider the sport of fine harness driving.


Roadster: This style of driving is where horse and driver team equipment is similar to that of harness racing.  The cart is a light two-wheeled vehicle that is designed to travel distances at speed over various terrains.  However this is not a race!  The horses are asked to perform at the jog, a road gait, and a rapid long-speed trot called “at speed”.  The common breeds seen in roadster driving are Shetland ponies and Morgans.  The horse and driver team is judged on performance and manners.  So if you looking for a driving sport with a very light cart for a variety of terrains, you have found in the driving style of roadster.


Sleigh Driving:  The style of sleigh driving involves the use of a sleigh.  The sleigh can come Horse Pulling Sleighin a variety of shapes and sizes.  Used to cross the snow in the winter it is a style of driving that is preserved today.  So if you are looking for a driving sport during those winter wonderland months, consider sleigh driving. 


Chances are there is a horse driving style/ sport for you and your horse, so enjoy the drive!